My Fitness Bucket List

A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die or before you ‘kick the bucket!’In the film by the same name, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson’s characters, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, write their own bucket lists and spend their remaining time going around the world trying to complete each item, including seeing many of the wonders of the world, sky diving, and getting back in touch with estranged family members. After seeing the film, I was having a conversation with a colleague about the things that would be on our own bucket lists. I realized that many of them were fitness related, so I decided to draw up a proper ‘fitness bucket list.’

Set Goals

At a basic level, this is similar to setting goals for yourself, which as athletes and coaches we should all be doing. Previously as an athlete, I frequently set goals for myself, and once I achieved them, I reassessed, set new goals, and worked toward those. One of the keys to goal setting is to make them realistic and achievable. For example, when I got to the university, I wanted to play rugby. In order to get on the university rugby team, I needed to put on some body weight. I was 80 kg (176 lbs) and, considering which position I played, I needed to gain some mass fast! So I set myself a goal—90 kg (200 lbs). Once that was reached, with a strict schedule of gym work, protein shakes, and huge meals, I made a new goal of 95 kg. This was soon followed by a renewed goal of 100 kg (210 lbs and 220 lbs). Having set myself goals that were achievable, I was able to reach them quickly (the weight gain took me approximately four months) and I was able to continue to progress, something that may not have happened as easily had my first goal been to go straight from 80 kg to 100 kg in one go. Sometimes, however, it’s good to set yourself a few long-term goals and some big ones that, although still achievable, are less tangible.

These are the sort of goals you can stick on your own ‘fitness bucket list.’ These goals may be competitions or events you would like to take part in or they might be physical tests or simply personal milestones that have a meaning to you. It’s really up to you! The list is also a changeable one. Often things change. What we once wanted to achieve may not seem as important anymore or what we once deemed possible or special can change. Much like in the film, you can cross things off the list once they're achieved or add new ones to the list when required. Some of these items may involve you altering how you train in order to help you achieve them successfully and others might just be some crazy idea you have and are going to try one day just to see how much testicular fortitude you may or may not have!

Finish What You Start

Below are just some of the items I’ve come up with to include on my list. I’ve crossed the ones I’ve already completed off. You’ll also notice that many of my list items are contrasting and often conflicting. Cycling the length of the United Kingdom didn't lead me to being able to squat twice my body weight, and I doubt having a weightlifting total higher than 250 kg would help me when climbing a mountain higher than 8000 meters. However, this doesn’t matter to me. One liberty provided by me being a professional coach rather than a professional athlete is that I’m not required to have singularity of focus in my training. I can try new things and work toward goals that are completely different from those that I previously completed. This is part of what keeps me excited about my own training.

  • Cycle the length of the UK (approximately 1000 miles)
  • Squat twice my body weight
  • Go over 250 kg for my Olympic weightlifting total
  • Complete the ‘Inman Mile’
  • Deadlift three times my body weight
  • Compete in a weightlifting competition
  • Compete in a powerlifting meet
  • Compete in a Strongman competition
  • Compete in a ‘fight’ sport (i.e. wrestling/boxing/MMA)
  • Cycle across the United States
  • Climb a mountain higher than 8000 meters

One of these, the ‘Inman Mile,’ which consists of walking a mile carrying 150 percent of your body weight on a bar, is a challenge that had been mentioned to me by my boss, Owen. This idea had stayed with me for a few months. Every now and then, I consider the logistics behind it—what it would take to do, where would be the best place to do it, and how long would it take? All these things rattled around my head until one day, not long after being offered a new job somewhere else where I wouldn't be able to do the challenge, I decided that the only way to answer any of these questions was to just try it!

So on the hottest September day in Britain in 106 years, I decided to give it a go. To make sure I didn’t back out, I dropped a comment on Owen's Facebook page and on our intern Jon’s Facebook page the night before saying it was on. The drive into work was a seriously nervous one.

Owen and Jon were already in the gym. We went through the plan a few times, and we tested the walk with various weights in the gym between squat racks before starting to carry the weights outside. Seeing as 150 kg is over my max power clean, I decided to set up the squat stands on the side of the rugby pitch to rest the weight on when needed. I marked out various distances so that I could keep track of how far I’d gone during the challenge. After more than a little procrastinating, I decided I had better get on with it.

Challenge Yourself

To say it was tough would be a huge understatement! I had planned on starting with walking 100 meters one way and 100 meters back. However, after going the first 50 meters, I realized that this had been a slight underestimation of the challenge ahead of me. So I turned at 50 meters and walked back. After only three of these walks (300 meters), I had to start doing 25-meter turnarounds. My ability to hold good posture during the longer walks was gone, and I knew I wasn’t going to finish it if I kept trying to walk that distance! At this point, my head was gone and I genuinely doubted my ability to finish. However, through the support of my colleagues and the athletes I coach and a considerable amount of stubbornness on my part, I managed to keep getting under the bar and walking 50 meters at a time, counting down the distance until I was done. After one hour and thirty-five minutes, I racked the bar for the last time to finish the mile. I was completely broken. I couldn’t even celebrate. My neck and shoulders were raw and swollen from holding the weight for so long, and my body was generally exhausted from the combination of the weight, distance, and sun.

Below is a video of some of the highlights from the challenge so you can see just how much I mentally broke down during the course of the challenge!

I’m writing this with the ‘Inman’ crossed off my ‘fitness bucket list.' I'm extremely proud of what I managed to do. I won’t be doing it again, but that’s half the point of the ‘bucket list’—once in a lifetime challenges that you give yourself. Other people may not necessarily understand why you want to do these things, but it’s these challenges that keep you coming back to train, wanting to rehabilitate all your injuries, and reading articles/books/training logs on sites like EliteFTS when you could be watching television or chilling out at the bar like all your old college friends do. It’s things like this that help you learn just that little bit more about yourself and how you react and behave when the going gets tough. I think we all need to have a few things like this on a ‘bucket list’ somewhere just to keep us coming back for more!

My list isn't in any way exhaustive. As previously mentioned, the list is continually evolving. However, I’m interested in what other people would put on their own lists. What goals do you have? What physical challenges have you set for yourself to finish before you kick the bucket? Put them down in the comments section. I’m always keen to get some inspiration for my own list! In the meantime, stay strong!